Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Will Brands Back Women's Sport?

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Will Brands Back Women's Sport?

Article excerpt

Sponsors struggling to cut through in men's sports are finding platforms in the women's arena, writes Ed Kemp.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova (pictured) will arrive at Wimbledon later this month with a list of brand endorsements that would make even the Beckhams turn green with envy.

Tennis is one of few sports in which women competitors have brand value that equals or exceeds that of men, and 21-year-old Sharapova has amassed personal deals with brands including Canon, Gatorade, Nike, Land Rover, Parlux Fragrances, Prince, Tag Heuer and Tropicana.

'Tennis is an interesting case study in terms of the commercial potential of women's sport,' says Alun James, managing director at Four Sports marketing & sponsorship. 'This was brought into focus last year when all the Grand Slams offered equal prize money to women and men for the first time. The WTA Tour was sponsored by Sanex, which is primarily a women's toiletries brand, and is now sponsored by Sony Ericsson, which has a product portfolio that encompasses both sexes.'

With the men's arena becoming cluttered, is there a viable opportunity for brands to achieve standout by sponsoring women's sport? 'Rights-holders for women's sports could make a much better case by highlighting their vision and audience,' says Tim Crow, chief executive of sponsorship agency Synergy. 'Too many opportunities are lacking in differentiation versus the male equivalents, even though there are some really interesting territories in women's sport.'

Few British women have attracted blue-chip sponsorship deals, with the notable exception of Paula Radcliffe and Dame Kelly Holmes. 'Right now there is a dearth of outstanding sportswomen who can cut across mass markets,' says Steve Martin, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sports & Entertainment.

The UK does have some potential stars, however. While England's men's rugby and cricket teams have struggled of late, their female counterparts are reigning Grand Slam and Ashes holders respectively England's women footballers, meanwhile, are top of their qualifying group for Euro 2009, in stark contrast to the men's team's failure to qualify.

Football dominates sports marketing globally, and while the women's game is still something of a minority spectator sport in the UK, a record crowd of more than 24,500 watched Arsenal Ladies beat Charlton Ladies in the FA Women's Cup final last month. …

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